Floating Market

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Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Ratchaburi

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

© Frank P. Schneidewind

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Tour Organizers in Bangkok love this market, because hordes of new tourist arrivals always want to see this attraction. The market itself has adopted to this and features higher charges on each article they sell plus the stores along the canals sell more Hong Kong Plastictoys and Made in China junk instead of hand made household goods like years ago. Locals never use this anymore, it has mutated to a pure tourist attraction, a cashcow for tour providers. In order to beat the rip-off with the transport providers, anyone can easily take the Bus number 78 from the Southern Terminal at Pinklao-Nakhononchaisi Road for a small fee. Or ride the inexpensive train to Ratchaburi, from where all Buses to Samut Sakorn pass by Damnoen Saduak. The attraction is roughly 100 KM west of Bangkok, the Bus takes just under 2 hours to get there. It is not advisable to do this trip in a Taxi, unless you can fill it with Passengers and have money to waste. Tour-minivans run there in about 1 and a half hour. Cheap tours pack up to 13 passengers to a small van! Inquire about this prior to booking, another feature called “Rose Garden” in Nakhon Pathom is often tossed in – a typical park with a “Beerhouse” style show, that they call a cultural event. “Beerhouse” style, because every larger country pub and microbrewery offers a similar performance to their guests free of charge!

 

The key is to arrive here early to take some photos worth your while, after daylight the stream of tourists grows without mercy and peaks maybe at 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Floating markets are a dime a dozen in the canals of the lower Chaophaya basin. Alone Pathum Thani sports 12 of them, all original – but smaller in size, not held daily and difficult to find. Damnoen Saduak in Ratchaburi is by far the biggest and most touristed of them all! It still resembles some of it’s old charm in the very early hours of the day, when boat paddlers offer their services for more reasonable amounts and the vessels aren’t fully loaded with other tourists. Smart visitors use the canal side walkways to take their pictures and leave the boat touts alone. You can see 70% of the market sure footed from the sides. If you come with your own car, make sure to neglect the first whistle-dudes who want to guide you to their parking lot, it is still miles away from the action. Lookout for the Welcome bow or gate as shown above and park directly behind the action here. It is also the bus stop.

The original part left from the old days are the fruit vending ladies with their boats. Early morning time is best for photo-ops because the fruits are fresh and still loaded in bulk on the boats down below.

Prices asked here for fresh foods are surprisingly still moderate, there are so many vendors on the water at times, that little water is left to be seen.

At a later time, floating snackerias dot the canals and it may be a good time to take a cruise if you so desire.

The cruise is individually to be arranged with the paddlers or can be booked at much higher fares through touts.

 

Traffic on the canal is wild and intense, but slow. Watch your hands as boats may rub their flanks quite often.



The vendors wait for the expected flood of tourists and their faces do not smile so much, unless they sense you buy something from them.

More and more tourist junk fills the stalls on the flanks of the canal, your skipper always wants to steer you near there, eager for any commissions on your purchases.

We directed him deep into the interior away from the commercial activity center, where canal banks were mud and offerings afloat more of a local character.

We wondered about their boat storage buildings there, neat to witness. A stop at a beekeeper’s pier was a true joke with little noney on display but tons of tourist type souvenirs at sky high prices, we decided to return to where we came from and possibly relieve our paddler prior to the 2 hours booked, the boats are not comfortable to sit in for long periods of time.



The sight here was a different one now with hundreds of tourists lined up for a cruise, the touring masses began to flock in!

Some stalls resemble Chatuchak-fleamarket stalls rather than a floating market stall. These have a tendency to spread fast.

All in all, we were happy to have seen it again, but surely would take friends elsewhere, when they arrive and want us to show them a Floating Market. Our recommendation would be much rather Aphawa in neighboring Samut Sakhon Province, as long as it is not too commercialized for tourists.

Amphawa – A beautiful daytrip into the rural countryside

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

© Frank P. Schneidewind

 

 

 

Samut Songkram is one of the Provinces west of Bangkok and it has another lesser known touristic gem to offer. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Klongs around Amphere Amphawa are featuring the “Thalaad Nam Yan Jenn”, which is another option for tourists and visitors to view and witness a form of a “Floating Market”.

Parking is plenty available at the Wat Amphawan Chetiyara, they also have backup parking lots nearby.

This market should be explored on foot as the local crowds each weekend demonstrate. Locals are in fact all you get to see here, as this market existence hasn’t spead far yet. Unlike it’s famous sibling, the “Damnoen Saduak” Floating Market, this one lacks the Taiwan and Hong Kong or China made “original” souvenirs and is geared mainly for the Thaifood Gourmets. All kinds of food and drinks are offered from the wooden boats, which roam the klong and occasional moore to a pier with concrete steps up to to the walkways. The entire community is littered with handicraft stores and the friendy attitudes of the sales people are so common in the rural “Land of Smiles”.

Some foods are prepared on the walkways too, but the majority of the passersby do get their dish from anyone of the abundance of floating dealers.

Opening times here are from noon 12:00 A.M. to roughly 20:00 hours, so just covering the span from early lunches to dinnertime. Seafood seems to be high in demand as most vessels offer some sort of delicacy at this neat market. Some antique stores dot the walkways and sweets or ice-cream cones can be purchased anywhere. The whole community seems to flourish on this scenario. It can be crowded in the evenings on the relative small walkways, but there is always room to sit down and relax or grab a snack.

What I really liked here was the moderate pricing for merchandise and foods offered. Due to the fact that westerners are a rarity here, everything commanded throughout regular rural countryside street prices. This may change eventually after hordes of wealthy tourists swarm the grounds here and Thai folks resort to different locations. Presently it is very fair priced and a long shot away from the marked up tourist prices elsewhere.

The evenings bring a new wave of hungry people and most came to dine here. The spots near good and wide concrete steps are quickly occupied by the dealers, which seem to cling to their pole positions like a racecar driver to his in a race.

Photo opportunities are plentyful and it pays to select a sunny late afternoon, when glare is reduced and colors are much more vibrant.

In the evenings, one can charter a boat here to venture into a firefly habitat not far from here. Prices for such trips start around 250 Baht but are negotiable for families or groups.

Despite their small outboard engines, the dealers use mainly wooden oars to handle their vessels. Amphawa is truly a “laid-back” type of community, do not expect a lot of English signs or menus – It may be helpful tu have a Thai guide along with you, when you venture here with no Thai communicaton skills. Amphawa is within driving distance for a Bangkok Taxi, but you may want to negotiate a price for a return trip with a waiting period. Taxis Bangkok-bound may be hard to find after dark or overcharge heftily on their requested fares.